Monday, December 11, 2017

Desert Southwest

It's all about the journey, not the destination.

We finished our last week in Colorado Springs with more visits with friends and family. 

Sean, Malcolm, Melanie, and Crystina, my great niece.
Malcolm is my great great nephew

My son Bill, daughter-in-law Denise, and Mary Washington, Denise's mother, 
at the Pepper Tree Restaurant

Ross and Myrna Wiens
A wonderful Christian couple, good friends and my former boss.

Arne Shulstad, friend and vendor when I worked at MGH.
Our quest for warmer weather forced us South. We made a stop near El Paso, Texas, to visit with my grandson Sean Wallace before he ships out to the Middle East.

Jennifer Gutierrez and Sean Wallace

Jake meets the vineyard dogs, Sombra Antigua Winery, Anthony, Texas.
We love our Harvest Hosts stops.

Kay and Russ get introduced to the wines.
Sonoita Vineyards in Sonoita, New Mexico.
I bought this one because of the cute label. The wine in the bottle was outstanding!
Did I mention that I like the Harvest Hosts stops?
We knew we had arrived in Arizona when we saw our first roadrunner and our first Border Patrol Checkpoint.

We settled into Emerald Cove in Earp, California, for almost two weeks. The best part of staying at this campground, besides being on the river, are the wild burros. Jake and I mostly see them on our hikes in the hills, but sometimes they visit the campground.

Jake loves the freedom of hiking in the hills.

Jake, patiently waiting for me to catch up. I think I climbed the equivalent of 7 flights of stairs on this hike.

Jake watching the burros as they followed us for a short distance.

These two burros followed us about a half mile. I told Jake to sit and they came right up nose to nose with him.
This burro must have kept looking for Jake and finally found where we were camped. 

His friends showed up the next day.
We also met some Arizona natives who live in Casa Grande. Terrific couple. Making new friends throughout our travels has been a wonderful part of traveling.

Margo and Chuck Unger

Our next post will be from Buckeye, Arizona.

Thanks for visiting. Leave us a message of encouragement. I have not been posting as frequently as I did on our first trip. I need to get better at that.

Black line is our first trip. Red line is our current trip. The dots are places we stopped.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pikes Peak or Bust

We are on the road again. 

Leaving Tuxbury Pond RV Resort in South Hampton, NH
October 10, 2017
The journey West is once again all about visiting people. Our first visit was in Heuvelton, NY, where we visited with Donna and Walter Ballard. Walter and I served together in Vietnam in 1968. We had planned on staying in their driveway, but the space was a little short and a bit steep. Walmart to the rescue! It was the first time that we stayed at a Walmart. It was a good experience. We had a great visit with the Ballards.

Donna and Walter Ballard

As we continued our journey, we stopped at several Harvest Hosts locations. When we arrived at the Virant Family Winery, we found that a neighbor was harvesting his grapes and had asked to use the Virant's parking lot to load his grapes, so there was no place for us to park. Later in the day, the flatbed of grapes left, headed to a Welch's processing plant and we got a place to park for the night. The winery had a restaurant and here is the view from our reserved table.

View of vineyard from our table.
Next visit, Ohio. We camped at Wally World in Louden, Ohio, and then visited with Debbie and Jeff Obrock, Kay's former sister-in-law and brother-in-law. What a great couple. Debbie cooked us a terrific meal! 

Debbie Obrock and Kay

So many tennis balls and so little time. 

Well yes, Jake, they look like tennis balls, they are the color of tennis balls and they are the size of tennis balls. However, like money, tennis balls do not grow on trees. Buckeyes? Horse chestnuts? Walnuts? Whatever they are, there are a lot of them at Wally World RV Resort.

Next visit, Peoria, Illinois, with Tim and Flo Kooi, Kay's cousin and his wife. We went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner and I had one of the best butternut squash ravioli meals that I have ever had! This was the third visit on our trip and the one thing I have realized is that we need to spend more time visiting with friends and relatives. Our visit was way too short at all three stops so far and this holds true for our next two visits.

Flo and Tim Kooi

Jake exploring Upper Peoria Lake at Mill Point RV Resort.
Our next stop was supposed to be at Wild Pickins Winery, but our hostess wanted us to stay at her home. Debbie Dirkson, Kay's cousin, asked the Police Chief if we could park on the street in front of Debbie's house. She said that we could, but since Debbie lived on a hill, it might be better if we stayed behind the fire station. The Police Chief had Debbie call the Volunteer Fire Chief, who was a police officer that worked for her. The Fire Chief said sure, and so, in keeping with our Destination Unknown blog theme, we stayed at the fire station instead of a winery. Again, we had a terrific visit that was entirely too short. Debbie and Richard Dirkson picked us up at the fire station and took us to their home. What a wonderful visit and wonderful meal! 

Debbie and Richard Dirkson
One more visit before our rapid dash to Pikes Peak. Our next overnight stop was at Fahrmeier Family Vineyards. Our friends Mark and Karen Seneker, whom we met last year, brought us supper and visited with us at the winery. Again, I feel like we need to spend more time at each stop to visit with our friends and family and to see the sights. While the Senekers were visiting, we had two other guests arrive. I did get a picture of one of them.

Jake and vineyard dog.
Karen and Mark Seneker, blogger friends and future full-time RVers.
Our next stop was Spring Lake RV Resort in Halstead, KS, and there we just rested for a couple of days. I needed that. While walking Jake, I came across this.

What type of fruit is this?
This is something I have never seen before. It appears to be a fruit and not a nut. It is the size of a grapefruit. There were a lot of these on our walk.

Finally, we arrived in Colorado. It was a beautiful day in the mid 70s. 

Pikes Peak or Bust
A view of Pikes Peak from Palmer Park, an amazing city park.
The nice weather did not last long.

The snow did not last long, but it stayed quite cold at night. About a week later, it was in the 20s overnight and the fog helped the hoarfrost develop on the trees.

A bush covered with the delicate ice crystals of hoarfrost.
Fog at 25 degrees leaves an impressive sight.
So beautiful

Heavy Frost
We settled in at our campground, but the water was shut off at our site for the winter. A week after we arrived, they shut off the bathrooms and showers for the winter. I fill our fresh water tank 5 gallons at a time and that works fine. We do have sewer and electric. 

We have spent our first week visiting with friends and family. We had a terrific visit with Tulare and Alora. We got to meet the new baby Eileena and visit with her big sister Rosie again.

Niece, great niece and two great great nieces.
Tulare, Alora, 
Eileena, and Rosie Wallace

We had a good visit with Clyde and Kim Hagan, in Castle Rock. My cousin, Jan Hagan, died while we were traveling towards Colorado. She will be missed. 

Russ with Kim and Clyde Hagan

Right after visiting with Kim and Clyde, we met Shelley Crews, Kay's cousin, and her husband Phil in Castle Rock for dinner. Shelley's mom, Kay's Aunt Shirley Kooi was visiting from Oklahoma. Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bill were longtime full-time RVers and an inspiration to us.

Shelley, Kay, Aunt Shirley and Phil

Soon after that visit we met with Beth and Randy Bishop for dinner in Castle Rock. We have been friends for a year on Facebook. They are Angie Wallace's parents and our new friends.
Beth and Randy Bishop
Angie Wallace's mom and dad.

Denise and Bill Wallace
My son also lives in Colorado Springs and we have met several times with both Bill and his wife Denise. Jake gets to go along on these visits and can visit with their two fur babies, Sasha and Max. My son, Bill, is struggling with his kidney disease. Some days are better than others. You can follow Bill's journey here:

Isn't Facebook terrific? Larry and Yvonne Voss, neighbors at Tuxbury Pond RV Resort and who live in Iowa, posted that they would be stopping for the night near us as they headed to Grand Junction, CO. It is such a small world, where we are able to reconnect and enjoy dinner together.

Larry and Yvonne Voss
One day, I had to go to Home Depot for some things to make repairs on the trailer. Home Depot knows how to honor veterans better than the NFL. Four parking spots near the entrance.

Home Depot in Colorado

We have done a little sightseeing.

Our truck and trailer snuggled in under the trees at Colorado Heights RV Park.

Mountain bike path in Palmer Park, a city park in Colorado Springs.

Yes Jake, crazy humans do ride their bikes close to the cliff.

Really? That's a long way down if they skid on the sand in the ruts on the rock path.

We have more visits and sightseeing to do while we are in the Colorado Springs area. Soon we will be headed to Arizona.

This year's journey is the red line. The black line was last year's trip.

To close, we have one last thing to share.

We are winterizing our trailer by taking it to Arizona for the winter.

Thanks for following along. Leave us a comment so that we know you are following our journey.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

On the Road Again

Here is our itinerary for October. It is completely changed from our earlier one. I understand that snow is in the forecast for Colorado Springs for Columbus Day. Lets hope winter doesn't stay, or we may need to head South sooner.

When my son was 4 years old I made the trip from Boston to Colorado Springs in 3 days. 16 hours the first day, 14 hours the second day, and 10 hours the last day. That 2,000 mile trip and 40 hours of driving now takes me two weeks. That's the difference between a two week vacation and a retirees life. Finally, I have time to stop and smell the roses. Life is good!

Itinerary for Our Trip October 2017

October 10 & 11, Tuesday & Wednesday
Whitehall, NY 12887
October 12, Thursday
Hammondsport, NY 14840
October 14, Saturday
Geneva, OH 44041
Loudonville, OH 44842
October 17, Tuesday
Troy, OH 45373
October 18, Wednesday
Zionsville, IN 46077
October 19, Thursday
East Peoria, IL 61611
October 20, Friday
Chesterfield, IL 62630
October 21, Saturday
Lexington, MO 64067
October 22 & 23, Sunday & Monday
Halstead, KS 67056
WaKeeney, KS 67672
October 25 – November 14
Monument, CO 80132

If you are near one of these destinations and want to see us, let us know. Visiting friends and relatives is much better than sightseeing.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hold the Presses

We were supposed to leave yesterday.

Destination Unknown is the name of the blog. Scrap the itinerary we posted in our last post. Everything has changed. Kay's daughter has bought a trailer and has moved onto the site next to ours. Kay's son then bought a trailer and also moved in, two sites from us. How could we possibly leave early? We are now staying until after Columbus Day! The route will stay as close to what we originally planned. Hopefully, only the dates will change. We will play it by ear.

Our first stop will be a visit to my Vietnam buddy, Walter in New York. Then we are headed to Ohio to meet Debbie Obrock and her husband. After that we will end up in Colorado, visiting my son and his wife. We have several other relatives, some on my side and some on Kay's side and some FB friends we have never met also in Colorado. We are going to visit all of them. What a wonderful trip this will be.

Next week I will work on our itinerary and get it posted as soon as it is complete.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ready to Hit the Road Again

Our first trip across country lived up to its name "Destination Unknown." We loved the trip, but it lacked structure. Sometimes this was a good thing and sometimes it was not. We left with a general direction, no particular time to get there and planned on visiting friends and family along the way. Some people knew we were coming, but not when and some saw we were close and asked if we could stop for a visit. Having the freedom to change our direction was good, allowing us to stay true to our "Destination Unknown." But the stress came from not being able to see someone because they were sick and we had to move on, or not being able to see someone because it would take us too far from our course. I had to finally realize that I could not do everything in one trip. Having the choice to go anywhere is both a curse and a blessing. We loved it because everything was new, but the lack of long-term planning was a bit unsettling.

Because I did not do any long-term planning, I did not research places to visit. Therefore, we did not do a lot of sightseeing. That was okay because we were visiting family and friends as well as making new friends. The few places we did visit makes me want to visit more places on the next trip.

When we were crossing the country, both ways, we moved every day or every other day. Being on the road is stressful, even when you go about 200 miles, arrive by 2 and stay 2 days. When we could stay a week or two in one place, we loved it. There were a lot of places that I wish we had more time to visit.

Our next trip across country will start just after Labor Day. I have just started to plan our route. Right now the plan is to go along the Northern states and sight-see along the way. I have a National Parks Passport and I want to fill it up with the stamps of the parks we visit. I am hoping that we are leaving soon enough to get to Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons, and the National Parks in Utah before they get snow. I will post on Facebook when I get to the planning stage so that our friends and families along that route can give us a shout if they want us to stop and visit.

Even though the thought of the ultimate freedom of "Destination Unknown" sounds good, I actually feel more comfortable with more structure than that. Our next trip will have more structure, because we are planning to go to Mexico for five weeks with at least one other couple. When the time comes, we will set a date which has to be kept. 

To sum it all up, I liked the freedom, but I didn't like the freedom. I liked traveling because it took us to new places. I didn't like traveling, because there is a lot of work to packing up and unpacking. I liked visiting friends, family and making new friends. I loved  visiting new places. I loved eating out at new places. I liked boondocking in the desert. This has been the most amazing trip and I am looking forward to doing it all over again.

Here is our itinerary for September. If you are close to our path, give us a shout and we will be glad to get together.

Our Trip September 2017

September 6 & 7
Diamond Point, NY 12824

September 8
Geneva, NY 14456

September 9
North East, PA 16428

September 10 & 11
Wapakoneta, OH 45895

September 12
Leesburg, IN 46538

September 13 & 14
Sublette, IL 61367

September 15 & 16
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

September 17
Round Lake, MN 56167

September 18 & 19
Rapid City, SD 57702

September 20
MT 59301

September 21 - 23
Lovell, WY

September 24 & 25
Boulder, WY 82923

September 26 & 27
Duchesne, UT 84021

September 28 – October 2
Salina, UT 84654

From Utah we will be headed into Colorado and will stay there until cold weather and the threat of snow forces us South. The rest of the winter will be spent in Arizona, California and Mexico.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Things That Went Well and Things That Did Not

The Trailer:

When we were looking at trailers, there were two things which we felt were really important: an outdoor kitchen and work space for Kay to be creative. The reasoning seemed sound because, as a seasonal, I had setup a nice outdoor kitchen with a BBQ grill, a table with my camp stove on it, my pots and pans hanging below the table and my utensils hanging from a rod at the back of the table. During the summer we lived outdoors. The reasoning for a work space for Kay also seemed sound. We did not want the dinette covered with an art project at meal time. So we bought a trailer with a bunkhouse and built a workstation in that area for Kay.

Lessons learned:

I need a bigger indoor kitchen, not an outdoor kitchen. We lived mostly inside during our recent travels because it was cold outside. Because the electricity was free and the propane was not, I cooked almost everything in the microwave, toaster oven and/or electric fry pan. Having a portable grill that mounts on the trailer and has a quick connect to the trailer's propane is a plus. The outside stove top, sink and refrigerator just were not used enough to justify the loss of space.

I overestimated how much time Kay would spend on her art projects. Yes, her art supplies filled the upper bunk but she now realizes she can downsize her supplies because she could get along without much of it. Her projects were short and easily cleaned up. Kay does not need her own work space and we can share the kitchen table.

Our next trailer will have a bigger kitchen with more cabinets and counter space. The living space will also have more room and be more comfortable.  I will also buy the extended warranty for at least the first year. Things seem to happen when you take it for a ride over bumpy roads.

Solar Panels:

There were problems with the install from the start. Perhaps I chose the wrong place to get it installed. On our first trip, the solar panels did not charge the batteries. I watched the installer trouble shoot the problem, which I found helpful. There was a wire which was not tightened properly when installed.

There was then a learning curve on how to use the system. 

When we returned, the power cord did not seem to work. I found that the installer of the solar panels and the inverter had made a poor splice on the power cord and the wiring burned up at the connection point between the two systems.

Lessons learned:

Check out the company doing the install. Get a one-year warranty in writing, including workmanship.

I learned early on not to leave the inverter on unless I needed to run an appliance. The first night out I left it on and it drained the batteries. That meant there was no heater, no refrigerator and no lights. Fortunately, the sun charged the batteries up and I did not make that mistake again. I also learned that the batteries do charge on cloudy days.

Camping Plans:

When we left, we bought two zones for the price of one in Thousand Trails. We bought the Southwest and Southeast zones because those were the areas where we were planning on spending the winter. Some of the campgrounds were nice and some were horrid. 

We also joined Harvest Hosts, a group of wineries, breweries, farms and museums which allow an RVer to dry camp overnight for free. My free overnight stop usually cost me more than if I stopped at a campground, but it was always worth it.

When we were boondocking at Mittry Lake, someone offered us 3 free nights of camping if we would listen to a sales pitch. The offer was so good that we bought a membership to Colorado River Adventures. This membership also included a Good Sam's membership and a Coast to Coast membership. Suddenly the cost of camping improved allowing more choices in more locations.

Lessons learned:

This is still a work in progress. We are considering joining Boondockers Welcome to open up even more free camping across the country.

Harvest Hosts was a good investment and we bought a lifetime membership. We have stayed at so many nice places. When we are moving across the country, this is a much better option for a place to stay than a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or a truck stop.

Colorado River Adventures was our best investment. CRA has 10 resorts and members are guaranteed a place to stay. We are allowed two free weeks in and then must spend one week out of the system or pay a fee to stay in on an out week. We can sell the membership for what we paid for it, and in essence get our money back, or we can pass it on to a child who can pass it on to their child. Next winter we are planning to stay for 5 weeks at their RV Resort in Mexico. We love the desert Southwest.


There are a lot of resources on-line. My favorite is I also use this in conjunction with Google Maps and use the satellite view to look at access to the area.

Lessons learned:

I found that it was better to scout out the area when we were not towing the trailer. When we camped on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Organ Pipe National Park, I did not check it out first and the area had too many trees and bushes and I scratched up the trailer. When we were in Carlsbad, we dropped our trailer at a Harvest Hosts site and scouted out the area. We found a great place, but the site I really wanted on a lake had a non-maintained road that we could not take the trailer through. 

Solar with an inverter allowed me to do some cooking in the microwave or toaster oven, without getting dishes and pots dirty. We used paper plates, plastic utensils, and plastic or paper cups to help conserve water. Conserving water was essential when boondocking. 

Other Stuff:

RVillage is a great useful site which all RVers should belong to because, when used properly, it helps keep people connected. It has helped us connect with other RVers and to then stay connected. It is a free site, but I bought the lifetime Gold membership because I believe in supporting a site as good as this one. They have a terrific app for your smart-phone.

After hooking up, I always have Kay check everything. A second set of eyes could help avert disaster. Maybe I should make a checklist. Occasionally, we both miss something. Once, I got to the dump station and noticed that I had forgotten to lower the antenna. No harm done, I lowered it and then left the campground. The worst thing is being interrupted when packing up because it breaks the routine allowing something to be overlooked.

No map, no pictures. I just wanted to share the challenges of being a full-timer on the road. The next blog will cover what we liked, what we did not like and what we will change or keep the same on the next trip.

Thanks for stopping by. Kay loves it when you leave a comment.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Home Sweet Home

Hooray! We are home. But first, the rest of the story.

After leaving Delaware, we spent a week at Gettysburg Battlefield Resort in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It rained six out of the seven days we were there. We did do the driving tour of the battlefield on the non-rainy day, but it was still cloudy and dreary. Here are a few pictures.

 The Confederate side of the battlefield

 Confederate artillery position

 The Eisenhower Farm NHS

 Looking across the battlefield towards the Union position of Little Round Top and Big Round Top

 Can you imagine charging across a field towards that?

 Monument to the Union Signal Corps on Big Round Top

 The only sign I saw about Massachusetts troops in the battle

There were a lot of monuments and statues throughout the battlefield

The size of the battlefield is impressive. In this one three-day battle over 51,000 Americans lost their lives. Robert E. Lee, the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, once said, "It is well that war is so terrible – otherwise we would grow too fond of it."

After leaving Gettysburg, we started our rapid dash for home. Our first stop was Wright's Farm. We love the Harvest Hosts program which allows us to stay free on their property over night. It sure beats staying at a truck stop or a Walmart. Here are some pictures of where we stayed on Wright's Farm in Gardiner, New York.

 Our trailer beside the cherry orchard

 A cherry tree in bloom

Looking at our trailer from the apple orchard

The view of the cherry orchard out the door of the trailer

Despite the rain, this was a pleasant, quiet place to dry camp for the night.

From there we went to Bishop's Farm Market and Winery in Guilford, Connecticut. They had a most interesting bubbly raspberry wine. Did I mention how much I like stopping at wineries?

Then it was off to North Conway, New Hampshire, where we visited with our friends Donna and Gregg Goldberg.

That was our last stop. Wow, what a trip. Yippee, we are home. Oh no! We had no electricity when I plugged in the power!

Many of you may not know that I am an electrician by trade. The problem was easy to locate and easy to make a temporary repair. We now have electricity, but I need to fix it before the next time we camp off the grid. The person who installed the solar system used a poor choice of a wire-nut to connect stranded and solid wires. When I fix the problem, you know it will be done right.  

Now the map.  The loop is closed!

Thanks for dropping by. Leave us a comment so that we know you visited. Kay loves it when you do.

Next blog or two will be lessons learned and highlights of what we loved as well as things we should change and things that went just right. It was a terrific seven months!